JÖRG WIDMANN Oktett
German composer Jörg Widmann is an old hand at evoking the past in a contemporary idiom; he once said that “the most important thing in my artistic career has been to combine tradition and innovation.” Oktett is one of many works in which Carnegie Hall’s current composer-in-residence pays homage to his 18th- and 19th-century predecessors through a musical language that is both richly allusive and thoroughly up to date. Widmann’s work is scored for the identical ensemble of winds and strings that Schubert used in his great Octet in F Major, and similarly plays on the contrast between chamber-music delicacy and symphonic robustness.
SCHUBERT Octet in F Major, D. 803
Composed in 1824, the Octet for winds and strings is one of several late chamber works that Schubert intended as preparatory sketches for a projected “grand symphony” on the scale of Beethoven’s Ninth. It was modeled on Beethoven’s youthful—and enormously popular—Septet, with a second violin added to enrich the sonority. While Beethoven considered his Septet little more than a crowd pleaser, Schubert was intent on plowing new ground and “striving after the highest in art.” Fittingly, the Octet had its first public performance in 1827 under the auspices of violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh, who had also taken part in the premiere of Beethoven’s work in 1800.